March 28, 2008

Spitzer Disregarded the Health of His Family

Eliot Spitzer’s actions were reprehensible not just for the immorality of it, nor simply because of the inherent hypocrisy of his public positions, but for an altogether different reason as well — one that opinion writer Alan Dershowitz missed entirely (“Spitzer Has Sinned, But It’s Our Sex Obsession That’s Criminal,” March 14).

Spitzer willfully endangered the life of his wife by his irresponsible actions. Having unprotected relations with a prostitute is an act that could easily cause a person to contract AIDS and to further transmit it to his spouse. The act of sheer disregard for the health and well-being of another person — and of the three children that he could have orphaned — is a serious breach of responsibility.

This is not just a personal issue, as Dershowitz argues. It is a demonstration of wanton disregard for the lives of others.

Immigration Doesn’t Lower Earning Power

Jobs acquired and wages earned by immigrants, when compared to native-born workers, are far from a zero-sum game in which one group’s success robs another of its earning power, as opinion writer Noam Neusner argues (“Is a Cheap Housekeeper Worth Your Principles?”, March 14).

In the 2007 report “Immigration’s Economic Impact,” The White House Council of Economic Advisers states that roughly 90% of native-born workers experience wage gains — totaling between $30 billion and $80 billion per year — from immigration. This can be attributed in part to factors cited by economist Giovanni Peri of the University of California, Davis, in his 2006 report to the Immigration Policy Center, which found that because immigrant workers generally complement, rather than replace, native workers in terms of their education and skills, immigration tends to increase productivity and wages of native-born Americans.

Neusner is right, however, in noting that we Jews are indeed an aspirational culture — as we have been from our beginnings. The specific circumstances may differ across time and place but, as with so much of our tradition’s wisdom, the core Jewish value of helping the stranger has not lost its power to affect our behavior and policy positions.

In today’s America, the most appropriate Jewish and humanitarian response to immigration and its pressures on the lowest strata of workers, immigrant and native-born alike, is through strict enforcement of American labor laws, investment in education and training, and comprehensive reform of American immigration laws to finally fix our broken immigration system.

Terrorism Won’t End If Israel Changes Policies

Of all the responses to the Mercaz Harav murders, opinion columnist Leonard Fein found mine the “most perplexing, even disturbing” (“What Zionism Was Not Supposed To Be,” March 14). I, too, am perplexed, for Fein never says where I erred.

Instead of argument, we get claims that I’m a “master of manipulation of sentiment” and that I engaged in “seduction” when I cited Chaim Nachman Bialik and Natan Alterman. What’s manipulative about that?

Something else must be bothering Fein. Could it be that though most of us want peace now, we know that it is unachievable, since the Palestinians have not accepted our permanence? Fein doesn’t appear able to admit that, and continues to pretend that there must be a solution. Hamas won’t change, so Israel must.

Therefore, Fein points incessantly to Israel’s failings. This time, he says that Israel violated explicit agreements made at Annapolis not to build in Givat Ze’ev, when he ought to have known that that’s untrue. Much to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s chagrin, Israel never agreed not to build there, insisting that the area is part of Jerusalem, as Newton is to Boston.

Israelis know that, short of disappearing, there’s nothing they can do to end the conflict. So we struggle to remain decent and alive, difficult though that often is.

Does Fein really believe that if Israel changed policies, the terrorism would end? Surely he knows that’s absurd.

Report on Connections To Israel Driven by Data

A March 7 editorial makes the naive scientific error of conflating correlation with causality (“The Kids are Alright”). Despite the claim, our data-driven conclusions about the strength of American Jewish connections with Israel are not a function of the temperament of any of the researchers.

The three of us are independent thinkers who are quite different in personality and outlook. We share a commitment to rigorous social science and a passion for the Jewish community.

We are dismayed by the editorial and the weak correlation between the facts, as reported, and reality. Most egregiously, the editorial claims that we and other researchers looked at the same data and reached wholly different conclusions. In fact, we looked at different evidence and, in our case, multiple studies over a lengthy period of time.

The notion that scientific disagreements flow from personality may make good journalistic narrative, but it is a misunderstanding of serious efforts to assess the state of American Jewry.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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March 28, 2008

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